Note: EarWerkz graciously provided the Legend R for this review. The Norne Audio Vorpal cable was purchased separately.
When I first learned that metro Atlanta finally had its first custom in-ear monitor manufacturer in EarWerkz, I have to admit, I was pretty excited. For years online, I read many firsthand accounts of people either visiting manufacturers or visiting retail stores with a plethora of custom and high-end universals available for demo. I envisioned those experiences being much like a kid in a candy store and I’d definitely been jonesing for something sweet.
Shortly after posting my enthusiasm in the EarWerkz Head-Fi thread and expressing my desire to visit, I was surprised to receive a personal message from Jack Vang, CEO of EarWerkz, inviting me to come audition their line-up. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and we made arrangements for a sit down. It turned out to be a three hour visit — a CYMBACAVUM overview of the EarWerkz line-up followed shortly thereafter.
I loved the Legend.
Legend R Specifications
- Model: EP-L8R
- Driver Configuration: (3×) High, (3×) Midrange, (2×) Low. 7-Way Crossover
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Impedance: 28 Ω @ 1 kHz
- Sensitivity: 118 dB @ 1 kHz
- Noise Isolation: 28 dB, +/-2 dB
Build Quality and Accessories
Presently, EarWerkz offers a standard 10-day turnaround time, which is virtually unheard of in an industry where four to eight weeks (or even much longer) seem typical. Such a fast turnaround might have you quizzically asking, “but how good is their build quality?” The answer is impeccable. The shell quality is the best I’ve seen, surpassing even that of the Unique Melody Merlin I owned a couple of years back. There are absolutely zero air bubbles within the cured acrylic; the color is even, and the shells are silky smooth and shiny. Currently, the only options for the faceplate are black, beige, and clear but it is my understanding that EarWerkz are working on future variations to color finishes and other options.
The Legend R packs in eight drivers to each side, so you’d expect to see a jumble of wiring, crossovers and drivers creating a visual cacophony — but it’s absolutely not the case. Internal wiring for the Legend consists of Estron silver-coated copper Litz discretely tunneled through clear tubing; all crossovers are tucked away out of sight, creating a very clean and organized look. This, in combination with the exceptionally clear and shiny shells, helps to create a fabulously clean-looking custom in-ear monitor.
EarWerkz shell designs sit more flush in the ear than most, thanks to the mounting of the recessed cable socket on the faceplate of the shell, somewhat similar to the faceplates used by Japanese company FitEar (though the connectors themselves are very different — EarWerkz’ pins are industry-standard two-pin, while FitEar’s are proprietary). This resulting stealthier fit means no longer worrying about how much the shells are needed to stick out to gain cable and connector clearance around the ear, but also precludes the possibility of complex artwork. In conjunction with this stealthier fit, EarWerkz also offers a fixed cable version, called Hero series, for a more standard down-wearing fit more familiar to the everyday populace.
All EarWerkz customs come standard with a Pelican hard case and a round soft case with the EarWerkz logo. The stock cable, sourced from American company PlasticsOne, Inc. is similar to designs by most other companies. It is splitter-less, comes in either 50” or 60” lengths, is available in black and gray/slate colors, uses standard two-pin connectors, and a right angle 3.5mm termination. Flexibility is excellent. The grey EarWerkz cable is easily my favorite stock custom monitor cable to date.
Sound and Performance
You can say EarWerkz‘ house sound is a neutral-based, forward signature with a slight bass lift and smooth treble — this is exactly what the Legend tuning captures.
I’d further describe it as a slightly downward-sloping frequency response for fatigue-free listening, with a midrange lift to produce spectacularly intimate vocals, all the while never deviating to far from a neutral sounding monitor. This darker, less analytical approach to “neutral” makes for an easy-going listen over the long haul.
You’d never really know the Legend is packing 8 drivers and 6 crossover points per side. The presentation is smooth and balanced with excellent coherence across the frequency range. Note weight is realistic and full, and the Legend can bring the rumble when the recording calls for it. Staging is tall and deep, with resolution and detail levels among the best I’ve heard.
The Legend, like the rest of the EarWerkz line-up, is extremely sensitive and takes very little volume from a smartphone or dedicated DAP to get very loud. While I did not pick up any hiss or noise on my sources, I’m sure the Legend would readily reveal noise or hiss on those devices prone to it. While the Legend does scale with higher performing gear, it sounds very pleasing straight form a smartphone.
Legend vs. EarWerkz Supra
Source: iPhone 5S
Sensitivity: The Supra required about two more clicks to reach the same volume
The Supra is a dual driver universal model derived from the EP-2 in the EarWerkz line up. This particular Supra is a universal version from their Kickstarter campaign and a current personal favorite of mine from the line up. (For more details regarding the sound of the Supra, please read the overview piece: The (Backyard) Biz: shotgunshane’s Visit to EarWerkz!)
The Supra has less overall bass quantity with less decay and sustain. In contrast the Legend‘s bass, while only moderately boosted over the Supra, displays greater authority with better texturing and depth. It’s denser, richer with more realistic reverberation. Where the Supra’s bass can appear leaner and a little more nimble in direct comparison, the Legend’s bass authority just sounds more life-like and nuanced with its lengthier decay and fuller presence.
The Supra’s midrange astounds you with its crystal clarity and air. Its lighter note and sharper edge are placed further from you than that of the Legend, giving you greater distance and a feeling of openness to the performance. In comparison, the Legend midrange is much more forward and raw sounding. The vocalist is thrust upon you with an engagingly intimate performance. Whereas the Supra’s midrange excels in clarity, the Legend‘s excels in raw emotion and transparency. Not only is the Legend midrange more resolving of micro-detail but its thicker note makes for improved instrument realism that lets you see deeper into the sonic landscape.
From the clear midrange, the Supra soars with air and sparkle into the treble, creating a kind of purity to its clarity. Cymbals are brighter and more forward in the mix, yet never harsh. In contrast, the Legend‘s treble is more laid back and smoother, yet even more articulated. While the Legend never comes across as bright and airy, it still maintains realistic sparkle and high levels of treble detail.
While both the Supra and Legend are obviously cut from the same cloth, they are both different takes on a neutral signature. The Supra focuses on a brighter, airier take on neutral and the Legend has more of a mild downward sloping frequency response with a focus on vocal intimacy. The Legend further separates itself by sounding larger, grander overall with much improved height and depth; improved layering and more precise imaging, with greater space and depth between instruments.
Legend vs. Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor
Source: AK240 in balanced mode
Sensitivity: The UERM needs about 10 full wheel clicks more volume to match the Legend
In many ways, the differences between the UERM and Legend are similar to those of the Supra and Legend. For instance, the UERM sounds further away, more open and a good bit brighter with more treble sparkle in comparison to the Legend, but overall performance levels are much closer between the UERM and Legend.
The UERM’s bass is very close to neutral in quantity, with a slight mid-bass lift, and a deep bass roll-off occurring around 40 Hz. The Legend‘s bass quantity is elevated over the UERM, but not exaggeratedly so, with audible extension down to 20 Hz. This translates to the UERM’s having a bit more focused bass punch and the Legend‘s having a more grunt and rumble. Decay is longer on the Legend, making it easier to pick up on some bass texturing, but also means it doesn’t sound quite as quick and as precise as the UERM. Overall, bottom note weight is richer, fuller, and more authoritative on the Legend.
The UERM’s midrange is more laid back and perhaps subtly smoother next to the more upfront and sometimes rawer midrange presentation of the Legend. Both midrange presentations are highly resolving and very transparent sounding. For instance, both make low-level details like vocal inflections, intakes of breath, parting of lips, back of the throat grit, etc. readily apparent, but the UERM does it at more of a distance, say perhaps at a distance in the studio, and the Legend brings it front and center — intimately close. Both midranges are fantastic and really star in both.
The Legend‘s treble is both weighty and articulate with a more laid back and smoother approach, whereas the UERM’s treble is light and airy, coming across both brighter and crisper, bringing treble detail more upfront, and at times analytical in nature. However, the Legend’s more laid back, smoother approach to the high end is no less detailed — just much more subtle, if darker in approach. In fact, they are almost complimentary approaches to high-end treble performance.
When it comes to the head stage, the UERM is one of the most open sounding IEMs I’ve come across. It has superb space and layering and at times can be even enveloping. The Legend, on the other hand, sounds much more upfront and intimate in presentation. While it doesn’t sound open like the UERM, nor as wide, it excels in height and depth with precise instrument placement within its head stage.
While presentations are obviously different enough, performance and resolution of both models are very evenly matched and it really comes down to which overall signature seems to better suit a listener’s preferences. For instance, the Legend may give you a more emotional connection to vocals, making you more likely to get lost in the lyrics and story being told; but the UERM may better give you the feeling of expansiveness, like the feeling of being inside an arena captured by a live recording.
The Legend is a worthy top of the line performer. It excels in vocal intimacy and resolution in an overall fairly neutral presentation. Build is superb and stands out as some of the best in the market. Easily overlooked but perhaps the most important aspect of choosing a custom in ear monitor — customer service. EarWerkz‘ customer service is top-notch, as reflected in the many posts on the EarWerkz discussion thread on Head-Fi.
The EarWerkz Legend R, with its evocative vocals, detailed presentation, and enthralling listening experience, is a product that clearly lives up to its name.
For more information on the Legend R, please visit: http://www.earwerkz.com/legend-r/